What I Taught MDs in a Cooking and Organic Farming Demo

Topics: Books, Celebrity, Education, Metabolic Syndrome, Obesity and Weight Loss, Presentations, Wellness and Health

Physicians are a sharp lot: that’s often how they qualified for medical school. We take care of ourselves, however, badly. Too many docs are stressed out, overweight, don’t exercise, and sleep little. It’s no coincidence that these are the three areas in which REFUEL offers its quick solutions for men…which women often already know!

So it was with special pleasure that last week I could visit Anaheim and sign REFUEL books for primary care clinicians at Pri-Med West (attendance 8000!) and offer tips about what to do in the medical office who have patients whom they don’t know how to get started or motivated or moderate, as diabetes or high blood pressure or heart disease risk goes out of control.

And then I traveled North to the Bay Area to make guacamole and give 50 certified organic Haas avocados from the farm to 50 Kaiser Permanente Medical Group Physicians (Northern California region) learning about ways to make and keep themselves well.

Many physicians are fascinated by cooking and want to become better cooks for themselves and their families: and I love teaching. The simple act of transforming an avocado, garlic, cilantro, serranos and citrus (in this case a pink lemon, a Rangpur lime and a Bearss lime) into guacamole allow learning and practicing

  • better knife skills (including honing the blade with a steel);
  • understanding when fruit is ripe, and when it is not;
  • dismissing myths about the avocado seed preventing browning (Rick Bayless at Topolobampo used to say we don’t include the seed because it annoys customers, and only prevents browning of the guacamole it is obscuring);
  • identifying when the most capsaicin lies (in the seed pod, not the ribs or the seeds), and
  • a thousand other facts which they can now take home, pass on to their patients, as they write recipes on prescription slips, and start programs of their own to help patients find and afford better food and less medication.

I offered them my online and offline resources for culinary medicine (films, apps, books) and I will bet that more than one enrolls in an online Rouxbe cooking course…I recommended it.

Wellness in physicians is completely underestimated, much like role-modeling for patients, but this group had great planning, fantastic speakers (on mind-body medicine, spirituality, energy medicine, food as medicine, fitness) and terrific organization.  It was a privilege to be with them: I prepared a handout with 10 take aways on culinary medicine and 7 foods to buy now, described the ways I am connecting the dots between medicine, cooking and farming, and offer here something new: farming is a lot like primary care, and it is just as challenging.

There is the first duty…do no harm. In medicine, don’t hurt the patient or make her condition worse; in farming, ditto the land, water, air, plants, animals.

There is the second duty…understand the patient’s condition. In medicine, appreciate the patient’s signs and symptoms, and ask what problem you can help to solve.  In farming, observe before doing…notice the way leaves are colored and hold themselves, the birds in the landscape, the fruit development and size. Unless, of course, there’s a fire. Which there often seems to be: there really is always something to do…like capturing the pictured basketball of bees swarming in the shade house. Spicy!

And then there is the third duty: offer a treatment that is most likely to be effective, reasonable and safe.  In medicine, this is sometimes a prescription or an operation: antibiotics for a cellulitis, or internal fixation for a broken femur, or over the counter medication.  But more often it is a time-limited trial of nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress reduction…in other words, behavioral change.  In farming, this is usually a change in watering, in light or sun exposure, a nutritional supplement, a companion planting instead of pesticide, herbicide or fungicide–even an organic one.  And in both, of course, tincture of time is something that is usually available.